Pakistan Security Brief
Pentagon says NATO strike not “unprovoked”; Pakistani report rejects U.S. account of NATO strike; Pakistani officials say NATO using smugglers along border; Armed clash occurs between kidnappers and security forces in Jamrud; Pakistani Senate wants former president Pervez Musharraf tried for treason; Interior Minister Rehman Malik assures security for Mansoor Ijaz; North Waziristan Taliban denies media reports that it supports Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan; Islamist political movement known as Pakistan Defense Council gets publicity; Human Rights Watch report points to human rights abuses in Pakistan; Iranian officials close trade gate between Pakistan and Iran; President Asif Ali Zardari arrives in Myanmar for two-day talks.
- On Monday, a Pentagon spokesperson announced that “the November 26 NATO air strikes on Pakistani border posts were not ‘unprovoked.’” This announcement rejects the Pakistani report released earlier on Monday, which claimed that NATO forces attacked Pakistani troops without provocation, and that the attack continued until Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani intervened and warned of “an enhanced level of response.” The Pakistani report also states that the NATO attack was “deliberate at some level.” The Pentagon spokesperson stated that he stood by the U.S. Central Command report released in December, which said that “both countries committed mistakes.” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated that the U.S. “stood by the findings” of the U.S. military report, but commented that the report could have been better if Pakistan had participated in the investigation. The Pentagon spokesperson claimed that the U.S. invited, and desired, Pakistan’s participation in the investigation, but that they turned down the offer.
- According to Pakistani officials, since Pakistan closed its border crossings in November 2011, NATO has at times resorted to using local smugglers to get necessary supplies to its forces in Afghanistan. NATO reportedly began hiring illegal smugglers after its attempt to pay private companies that transport goods across the border under the Pakistan-Afghanistan Free Trade Agreement (PATA) failed. Pakistani officials said that these private companies were secretly switching their normal cargo with NATO supplies, until Pakistani security forces became aware of what was happening and banned the movement of containers under PATA. A NATO official denied these allegations, and a spokesman for coalition forces in Kabul said they “are not facing any problems vis-à-vis logistics,” but they “would welcome the reopening of the two supply routes in order to normalize ties with Pakistan.” The reopening of the borders would be highly beneficial for NATO, since smugglers say they carry about 20 to 25 small containers a day, while NATO would ship an average of 250 large containers a day when the borders were open.
- On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter met and discussed “the cracks in relations between the two allies after the NATO attack on a Pakistani border check post” on November 26. Khar told Munter that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) has “forwarded its recommendations to the prime minister relating to a review of ties with the U.S. in the aftermath of the NATO border attack.” Khar also noted that a joint session of parliament would soon convene to take up the matter.
- Speaking at a panel discussion on “Pakistan-US relations – Toxic or Symbiotic?,” Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner in the UK Muhammad Nafees Zakaria reaffirmed the view that Pakistan wants “an amicable Pak-U.S. relationship based on mutual respect,” but it will not accept “breaches” of its sovereignty.
- U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters during a daily press briefing on Monday that Mansoor Ijaz, one of the key players in the “memogate” scandal, met with U.S. envoys in Switzerland, but she refused to comment on the details of the meeting.
- An article in the Financial Times looks at the new political movement spearheaded by the leader of one of Pakistan’s most infamous terror groups. Hafiz Saeed, the founder of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is “on the march—crisscrossing the country with a radical show starring sectarian hate groups, Islamist parties and hawkish ex-generals.” Calling itself the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC), Saeed’s group rallied 10,000 people in Rawalpindi on Sunday chanting, “If God asks, we will go for jihad.” Speaking on the goal of his new group, Saeed claimed that the PDC has “only one objective: to form a civilian force for the defense of Pakistan, which can work alongside Pakistan forces.” According to a Financial Times interview with Saeed, he claims that he formed the PDC to defend Pakistan from the threats it faces, namely the U.S., India, and NATO.
- A clash occurred in the Ghundi area of Jamrud, Khyber Agency on Monday between kidnappers belonging to a group from the Mulazai area of Peshawar and security forces from the police, Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary and Khassadars. The armed exchange went on for some time after the kidnappers opened fire using rockets and heavy automatic weapons, and the security forces returned fire. At least two security personnel and three kidnappers were killed, while four others were arrested.
- In two separate incidents on Monday, one policeman was killed and five others were injured in Nowshera and Mardan districts. In the Par Hoti area of Mardan, unidentified gunmen opened fire on two police officers, killing one and injuring the other. In the Ajab Bagh area of Nowshera, four policemen were injured when a remote-controlled bomb hit their vehicle.
- On Monday, a spokesman for Hafiz Gul Bahadur’s North Waziristan Taliban denied media reports that the group has issued a statement in support of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan.
- Police suspect that religious extremist militants are behind last week’s kidnapping of two foreign aid workers in Multan, but “the kidnappers have made no contact so far,” said the head of the police investigation Azhar Akram.
- A couple was injured on Monday when a mortar shell fired by unidentified militants landed on their house in Gul Bandan village in Bannu.
- On Monday, in addition to the Senate adopting a nonbinding resolution demanding the arrest of former Pakistani president Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf upon his arrival in the country, it also instituted “treason charges against him under Article 6 of the Constitution.” The resolution cited Musharraf’s disregard of the Constitution and damaging agreements with the U.S. as the primary reasons for the charges against him. Senator Raza Rabbani, senior leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), claimed that Musharraf “had used state power to both suppress Baloch nationalists and assist the killing of veteran Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.”
- Interior Minister Rehman Malik appeared before the “memogate” commission on Tuesday to explain his “controversial” statements regarding the security of Mansoor Ijaz, Pakistani-American businessman and central player in the memogate scandal. Malik blamed the media for misquoting him and assured the commission that “he would provide high-level security” to Ijaz, and that he “would not put his name on the Exit Control List (ECL).” In an email to his attorney, Ijaz again refused to come to Pakistan to give his statements, despite Malik’s assurance of security. On Monday, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said the Punjab government “was ready to provide security to Mr. Ijaz on the directions of the Supreme Court if the judicial commission met in Lahore.”
- The judicial commission in the memogate case has given Mansoor Ijaz one last opportunity to testify before the commission on February 9. Justice Qazi Faiz Esa, head of the commission, said that the commission will address Ijaz’ concerns over security. According to the commission, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure Ijaz’ safe arrival, to protect him during his stay, and to ensure his safe return.
- On Tuesday, Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI) Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha submitted his reply in response to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS)’s summons to explain his position regarding the memogate scandal. The committee is investigating the issue separately from the Supreme Court’s own inquest.
- On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its World Report 2012, stating that “Pakistan’s fledgling democratic government, under increasing pressure from the military, appeased extremist groups, ignored army abuses, and failed to hold those responsible for serious abuses accountable in 2011.” Brad Adam, Asia director at HRW, stated that 2011 was “disastrous for human rights in Pakistan.” In the past year, 800 people were killed in Karachi, largely due to politically motivated violence; at least 10 journalists were killed throughout the country; and U.S.-Pakistan relations deteriorated dramatically due to the U.S. withholding $800 million in aid, Pakistan’s alleged harboring of Osama bin Laden, the November 26 NATO strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, and the roughly 75 U.S. aerial drone strikes within Pakistani territory.
- On Tuesday, Farahnaz Ispahani, wife of former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, refuted Monday’s news story that she had permanently fled to the United States. Ispahani claims that she never gave an interview and that the news item was a “figment of the imagination.” Contrary to the story that appeared in media reports yesterday, she claims that she has full respect for the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Ispahani stated that “she has arrived in the U.S. to meet her children and would soon be going back to Pakistan.”
- Geo reports that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani “held a meeting with Chief of Army Staff Gen.Kayani, DG ISI Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.” The leaders discussed regional issues, particularly Afghan policy, as well as the closure of the NATO supply routes.
- In an interview with a private news channel on Tuesday, Information Secretary for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Qamar Zaman Kaira said the current administration would complete its tenure and elections would occur according to schedule. “The government was facing many challenges,” he said, but “the demand of early elections from other political parties was not a solution to those problems.”
- Zero Point, the trade gate between Pakistan and Iran, was closed by Iranian border officials on Monday in Taftan. According to the border officials, the gate will be closed for an “indefinite period” as a security measure in preparation of a religious festival in Iran. Pakistani traders affected by the closure “have demanded [that] the authorities concerned take up the issue with Iran and reopen the trade gate as soon as possible.”
- On Tuesday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Myanmar, where he will be discussing upgrading relations and promoting economic and trade cooperation with Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and meeting with democracy advocate and Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi.
- An article in the Washington Post reports that “the current political crises, involving a memo scandal and graft allegations, feature elements that have helped bring down previous civilian governments: avaricious politicians, baying opposition parties, pliant judges and a failing economy that is said to worry the generals.” However, the expected coup has not yet come. Analysts state that the current and relatively new power of the news media and judiciary may limit the use of tools used in past coups such as tanks and state media blackouts. If the government survives the current crisis, it will be the “first-ever elected regime to finish its term.”